Thursday, May 31, 2001

For a Labour poster of William Hague
looking strangely familiar, click here.

You might also enjoy the other posters of this election, and there are links to election posters from 1910 up as well.

I forgot to mention yesterday that Blair went to visit Microsoft yesterday and was promptly integrated into their marketing campaign for some new software (I assume the next version
of Windoze).

The Supreme Court spent this week deciding on the Original Intent of the Founding Fathers of golf. They ruled by 7-2 that involved hitting a ball a ball with a stick, and that therefore a handicapped person could ride a golf cart. Scalia, exercising his usual compassion towards the disabled, compared this with letting a kid with Attention Deficit Disorder have 4 strikes in Little League. Isn't this the guy who spotted Boy George the state of Florida?

Tuesday, May 29, 2001

Colin Powell, who is evidently black, goes on a 4-nation tour of Africa. If I have this right, he told the leaders of two of those 4 countries that they should step down. He might be right (Daniel arap Moi and Robert Mugabe) but isn't that just a touch arrogant?

Speaking of diplomacy, we're evidently conducting arms control negotiations by press release these days. The Bushie Administration said that it would overcome Russia's objections to our scrapping the ABM treaty by buying its S-300 missiles--for use in our missile defense system. It just hadn't made this offer to anyone in Russia before telling it to the AP. Or presumably running it through Jane's, since it seems that the S-300 only shoots down airplanes, not missiles, whatever the NY Times and Washington Post might think (they didn't do their homework either). That's what happens when you have a moron in charge: no one else feels they have to work very hard either.

The Washington Post today (Tuesday) has a piece on the international police program the UN put into place in Bosnia 5 years ago. It's been marked by massive corruption (the Ukrainians
are only in it for the stolen cars) and lots and lots of underage sex. The police all have diplomatic immunity, you see, exactly what you want in your cops. Many cops have been sent home and their stories carefully covered up. The US contingent are considered to be average. The FBI, which is a law unto itself, as we know, refused to participate. So the job of recruitment and training was handed over to a private corporation, which got a lot of retired cops, some with pace-makers and over 65, and
bored cops looking for sex with 13-year olds, and sent them over.
No matter what they do (one cop *bought* a prostitute), the worst
that happens to them is they get sent home.

Monday, May 28, 2001

I've come back from graveyards before

The Washington Post says that Elliott Abrams, one of the few people who always look more pleased with themself than does Dubya, will be the next National Security Council senior director for democracy, human rights and international operations. The position does not require Senate confirmation. This is bad because it makes the 1980s into a waste. I said that if one good thing came of the Iran-Contra affair, it was that Elliott Abrams would never have a government job again. This is just wrong, people.

Speaking of democracy and human rights, the Colombian Senate has passed a bill allowing the security forces to detain suspects without charges for a week, conscript civilians in some form, arrest people denounced by their neighbors, investigate their own
human rights violations and even perform their own autopsies on the people they kill. Our tax dollars at work.

The Post also says that the new bumper sticker in DC is "Don't mess with Vermont."

And from the same column:

Meanwhile, former president Bill Clinton was playing a charity
round of golf at Ballybunion, Ireland, a few days ago, the Irish Times reports. "There's a graveyard [literally] to the right," warned his playing partner, former Irish foreign minister Dick Spring. "Yeah, I've come back from graveyards before," Clinton said.

Saturday, May 26, 2001

A blind man is the first to climb Everest. Well, they *told* him it was Everest.

The former president of Argentina Carolos Menem is marrying the former Miss Universe. Does that mean she out-ranks him?

Some Dutch doctors have set up a boat in international waters off Ireland to offer abortions. The head used to be with the Rainbow Warrior, so at least she's prepared...

Friday, May 25, 2001


The Justice Dept has found yet more documents they failed to hand over to McVeigh's lawyers. But Atty Gen Ashcroft says he won't postpone the execution again because there is no doubt that McVeigh is guilty. No there isn't, but there is doubt
over whether he received a fair trial.

Testifying before a House subcommittee on Bush's plan to let religious groups run social services, the Evangelical head of one such drug group bragged about converting Jews into what he calls "completed Jews," which is the cute fundie Christian term for it,
although the rest of us might have images of them trying to tack a foreskin back on.

Predictable headline of the week:
Computer Vandals Clog Antivandalism Web Site.

Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill evidently said: "If you set aside Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, the safety record of nuclear is really very good."

One of the great disappointments of the Blair government was that despite coming to power with 102 female MPs--known as Blair's Babes--, very much a record in the UK, they haven't made much impact to date, although there have been amusing discussions
about whether to allow breast-feeding in Parliamentary committees (it was banned because so are other forms of "refreshment"). And the women have really been absent from the election campaign. This has been noted, so today Chancellor Gordon Brown appeared, not just with the usual silent token woman, but with two of them, at what was sarcastically labelled Ladies' Day. A reporter addressed a question to one of them about this very subject:
"Why has it taken until week three of the campaign for more than one token woman to appear on the platform . . . and I think it's the first time that one of them has been allowed to answer a question from the platform?"

At this point Brown couldn't help butting in to answer the question himself.

Opening paragraph of the week:
A COUPLE were jailed yesterday for taking their daughters headmistress hostage and threatening her after the girl was sent home for wearing a nose ring.

Headline of the day: Ministry 'failed to heed advice on pigswill'

Wednesday, May 23, 2001

Hail to the chief

Turkmenistan president Niyazov, already hailed as Chief of the Turkmens in one of those Central Asian leadership cults that always seem so unearned, has been promoted, if indeed there can be a promotion from Chief of the Turkmens. He is now being called by his spokesmen a national prophet with divine abilities.

Also, Jeremy Irons has painted his 15th-century castle in western Cork peach. The natives are not happy.

Tuesday, May 22, 2001

Monica (remember her?) wants The Dress returned to her. She says she won't sell it.

You won't have missed this story, but let's make sure (at least one of you currently being out of the country):
The Taliban plan to make all Hindus resident in Afghanistan wear a yellow star, or some such symbol. Oddly, the women will still have to wear Islamic clothing.

So when Al Gore uses his office for fund-raising, it's a crime against humanity, but when Cheney uses the vice-presidential residence to host large donors, it's a "thank-you" and
certainly not a fund-raiser.

Margaret Thatcher accuses Labour of being arrogant. She actually endorsed Hague for prime minister, which is more than Ted Heath is willing to do.

Monday, May 21, 2001

Headline of the day: British Diet May Be Cause of Depression. Because it is deficient in selenium, not because it is crap.

The Official Monster Raving Loony Party has come out with its manifesto: 4 blank pages. You can surely read them online. should do it. Their actual promises include smaller class sizes by making the kids stand closer together, draining Loch Ness to see if there's a monster, and ending the north/side divide by making it a square root.

Sunday, May 20, 2001

I don't believe I've mentioned the conviction in South Carolina for homicide of a woman who smoked crack while pregnant. So that's homicide, and an 18-year term, for a fetus.

Colin Powell asked the Israelis not to do something stupid in response to, oh, whatever the last Palestinian atrocity was. Israel immediately sent in the war planes. American war planes. Bought from the US. Which are supposed to be used for defensive purposes only. So can we have them back, please?

Al Capone's lawyer just died, aged 107. Read the obit if you can.

Thursday, May 17, 2001

I mentioned that deputy PM John Prescott punched out a protester yesterday. For wall-to-wall coverage that simply has to be seen to be believed, check out the Friday London Times.

For an actual gallery of photos commemorating the event, click here.

Also, more boxing and egg jokes than you would credit. Blair says he won't fire Prescott. Meanwhile, Sky TV is making this the most repeated footage since Elian was seized in Miami. Times sketch writer Matthew Parris says that William Hague was struggling to be interesting enough for anyone to want to hit him.

On Bush the Usurper's argument that those pesky gas prices can be taken care of by cutting taxes to help (wealthy) people pay for gas, Bill Maher asks why the government doesn't just write a check directly to Exxon and cut out the middle-man.

Favorite start to a news story today:
An actress has claimed an opera company sexually discriminated against her after it turned her down for the part of a virgin because she would be heavily pregnant by the end of the show's run.

Wednesday, May 16, 2001

Israeli official death squads yesterday killed 5 Palestinian cops. At first they said the cops were shooting at them. Then they downgraded that to behaving suspiciously. Then it turns out that 1 of them was cooking suspiciously while 2 were sleeping suspiciously when they were shot in the head at close-range--execution-style, as they say on Law and Order. Israel admits this was an intelligence mistake and says that it might even apologize.

The British elections are moving along nicely. The deputy prime minister was hit with eggs today. He responded by hitting the guy. Which The Times helpfully points out is illegal. Meanwhile a Liberal Party candidate drops out. While canvassing door to door he met a dog, which he sprayed with (illegal) pepper spray, and then ran to his car to make a quick getaway, unfortunately dragging an old woman, I believe the dog's owner, along the road.
Home Secretary Jack Straw was heavily heckled while making claims about having improved crime and the morale of the police. It was the police who were heckling him. Ian Paisley declares line dancing to be sinful. Which may be the only intelligent thing he's ever said. The Tories reveal a party political broadcast in which they blame Labour for 2 rapes, Willie Horton style, by criminals in a home detention curfew scheme.

The Irish Prime Minister--and how things have changed--has been issuing official invitations which include on them the name of his girlfriend (he is separated). The cardinal was not best pleased.

Russia's defence minister says he can understood why a colonel strangled an 18-year old girl in Chechnya, calls him a "victim of circumstances" (he was pissed off because of snipers).

Monday, May 14, 2001

The Egyptian censor came down hard on a proposed song with the lyrics, "I don't like Israel." No, no, he said, change that to "I hate Israel." The song reached #1.

Attorney General Ashcroft holds a Bible study every day, which certainly isn't mandatory for any Justice Department employees wishing to advance their careers, no sirree bob.

The Italian electorate votes into power media magnate and Mafia stooge Berlusconi, again. He plans to run the country like a business. The good news/bad news is that the near-fascist regional separatist party the Northern League has seen its electoral support collapse. This is bad news in that if it had
been part of Berlusconi's government coalition, it would have been easy to treat Italy as the pariah state that Austria was last year (Belgium already threatened to do so).

The British elections are humming along nicely. William Hague, sporting his new Bruce Willis haircut (if I shave it maybe no one will realize I'm bald), was in Wales to launch the Tory party's Welsh manifesto. Which had to be scrapped because it was so badly translated. The slogan behind him was also wrong. Some smartass local reporter asked him to pronounce it, but he refused. I should say that this man was once the Welsh Secretary. And his wife is Welsh. Sad really. The British Politics e-mail discussion group is currently debating why Hague is portrayed as such a loser. The consensus is that he is a loser. Also that his voice is terrible. He sounds like a 13-year old trying to deepen his voice in order to buy cigarettes.

Finally, a sentence one simply does not read every day: AN exercise involving 27,000 American and Australian commandos was temporarily halted last week when a US Marine shot dead an emu.

Sunday, May 13, 2001

The state of Alabama (motto: "You shure got a purty mouth") has raised the age of marriage from 14 to 16.

Oregon has recalled a list of helpful hints to welfare recipients on how to cut down their expenses by shopping at thrift stores, clipping coupons and rooting through dumpsters.

The Observer has a story on Japan's practice of tying aid to small countries to its votes on the International Whaling Commission. You have to wonder why this is so important to them.

Douglas Adams, a man who truly knew where his towel was, has died at 49. Good news: he just completed the movie script for Hitchhiker's Guide.

Saturday, May 12, 2001

The House has voted to punish the UN for its free vote to exclude seat-holder-for-life US from the Human Rights Commission. They'd also like Powell to figure out who didn't vote for us. Remember, humans have rights, small nations will do whatever the hell we tell them to, or else.

Molly Ivins uses a phrase for the Texas justice system I need to pass on before finding a context in which to steal it, because I don't want to forget it: the cowboy gulag.

Mother Jones's Bushwatch section on its website has a link to a Monday LA Times story, not picked up by either the NY Times or Washington Post, about the US's suspiciously fast expulsion of a Honduran diplomat and former general who could tell the truth about John Negroponte--Bush's designee as ambassador to the UN--and his role as Reagan's ambassador to Honduras in covering up death squad activities.

There was an interesting convergence of rhetoric this week in two very different (one would have thought) policy arenas. John Walters, Bush's nominee as True Czar of All the Drugs, does not believe in drug treatment, which he considers part of a liberal
"therapeutic state in which government serves as the agent of personal rehabilitation." Dick Cheney said something similar about conservation only being to make people feel good about their personal virtue.

I think the link here is the continuing Republican vendetta against the 1960s, despite the fact that environmentalism is a movement against reckless consumption and drug-use is in fact reckless consumption.

At Walters's confirmation hearing, I'd love for someone to ask him, if rehab only works in prison, shouldn't the same apply to alcohol, and shouldn't your boss have been sent away? Bush the Younger's alcohol use wasn't even a victimless crime, since he tended to drink and drive.

As bad an idea as school uniforms are in the US, there are other places where they should be a complete non-starter. The leader of the German Christian Democrats calls for school uniforms, saying they improve the children's sense of belonging and community. I think we've all really had enough of Germans' sense of belonging and community.

From the New Statesman, a competition.
Definitions of a 21st-century gentleman:

A gentleman is someone who only wipes his nose on his sleeve in private. [does doing it while driving your car count?]

A gentleman never argues with a lady in public. If she infers from this that she is being patronised and hits him over the head with her handbag, he will not hit her back.

A gentleman is a man who can play the tuba but does not--at least in public.

A gentleman is someone who stands and gives up his seat for a lap-dancer.

Switches off his mobile during sex, unless he can answer it without disrupting his performance.

Apologizes before he farts.

Thursday, May 10, 2001

The Nation's Name the President contest results:
1. Governor Bush (6,625 votes) 2. Spurious George (4,949) 3. President* (4,564) 4. President Select (2,436) 5. Boy George (2,095). The also-rans were His Illegititude (1,789), President per curiam (888), pResident (790).

Tuesday, May 08, 2001

NY Times headline: "White House Picks Chairman of SEC: A Representative of Industries Will Now Regulate Them." The 2nd phrase is sort of a generic, I think.

There seem to be no more stories on Bush's daughter's drinking. We need a proper tabloid press like the British have. The Sun just flew Ronnie Biggs back to face justice and suck all the news coverage away from the general election that Blair should be announcing today. Ronnie Biggs, if you don't know, once (and by once I mean on the day I was born) helped rob a train. It was either a really great train or a really great robbery, I'm not sure which. He escaped from prison in 1965 and has been living in Brazil most of that time, most recently earning his living by letting Brits come and have tea with him (robbery proceeds last just so long). The British government, which has been rabid about getting this guy back for a rather long time for some reason, naturally expedited his passport, once he said he wanted to return, but the Tories are still accusing the government of doing so as an election stunt. I'm planning to enjoy this particular circus as much as I can. I must check if the Sun is online, I think it is.

I got off track. I meant to try to work into the bit about Jenna Bush a line I'm stealing from a Martin Amis novel about all rich kids going through a cocaine phase--at birth their parents set their names down for the posh drying-out spots.

Still, it's not as weird as trying to sneak into Japan on a fake passport to go to Disneyland.

In its ongoing efforts to start a new cold war, the US yesterday resumed spy plane flights off China's coast, and Rummy Rumsfeld said he'd really like to put offensive weapons into outer space.

If I were the Chinese, I'd break the spy plane down into 1.3 billion pieces and parcel it out amongst the populace. Like the Berlin Wall.

Monday, May 07, 2001

fun and games

I just realized that I completely forgot all about the English department's marathon reading Friday of Beowulf. Shit (to use an appropriately Anglo-Saxon term).

Some scholar type claims that Columbus actually first visited the New World in 1485 on a secret mission from the pope.

According to a New Yorker article I haven't seen, that might not be out yet (although they have a web site now, don't they?), FBI director Louis Freeh, who has just announced his early retirement after just long enough a period that it won't look partisan, loathed and refused to speak to Clinton. More needs to be known about this.

Saturday, May 05, 2001

NY Times headline: Increasingly Schools Move to Restrict Dodgeball. Well that should make it easier to hit the little kid with glasses and asthma, shouldn't it?

TV movie with the most tv-movieish title I've ever seen: Baby Monitor: Sound of Fear

Energize, Mr Scott for those hilariously over-the-top Christian comics

The Louisiana Legislature denounces Charles Darwin as a racist.

Bush: But I also made it clear to [Vladimir Putin] that it's important to think beyond the old days of when we had the concept that if we blew each other up, the world would be safe."--Washington, D.C., May 1, 2001